Identification of the Protein C/Activated Protein C Binding Sites on the Endothelial Cell Protein C Receptor
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The endothelial cell protein C receptor (EPCR) is an endothelial cell-specific transmembrane protein that binds both protein C and activated protein C (APC). EPCR regulates the protein C anticoagulant pathway by binding protein C and augmenting protein C activation by the thrombin-thrombomodulin complex. EPCR is homologous to the MHC class 1/CD1 family, members of which contain two alpha-helices that sit upon an 8-stranded beta-sheet platform. In this study, we identified 10 residues that, when mutated to alanine, result in the loss of protein C/APC binding (Arg-81, Leu-82, Val-83, Glu-86, Arg-87, Phe-146, Tyr-154, Thr-157, Arg-158, and Glu-160). Glutamine substitutions at the four N-linked carbohydrate attachment sites of EPCR have little affect on APC binding, suggesting that the carbohydrate moieties of EPCR are not critical for ligand recognition. We then mapped the epitopes for four anti-human EPCR monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), two of which block EPCR/Fl-APC (APC labeled at the active site with fluorescein) interactions, whereas two do not. These epitopes were localized by generating human-mouse EPCR chimeric proteins, since the mAbs under investigation do not recognize mouse EPCR. We found that 5 of the 10 candidate residues for protein C/APC binding (Arg-81, Leu-82, Val-83, Glu-86, Arg-87) colocalize with the epitope for one of the blocking mAbs. Three-dimensional molecular modeling of EPCR indicates that the 10 protein C/APC binding candidate residues are clustered at the distal end of the two alpha-helical segments. Protein C activation studies on 293 cells that coexpress EPCR variants and thrombomodulin demonstrate that protein C binding to EPCR is necessary for the EPCR-dependent enhancement in protein activation by the thrombin-thrombomodulin complex. These studies indicate that EPCR has exploited the MHC class 1 fold for an alternative and possibly novel mode of ligand recognition. These studies are also the first to identify the protein C/APC binding region of EPCR and may provide useful information about molecular defects in EPCR that could contribute to cardiovascular disease susceptibility.
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